What Animals Do When They Think No One is Watching

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

coyote pups playing

 

In our family we make a point to be playful and silly as much as we can. We laugh a lot. And we make time to play.  I am also a huge advocate of using play when teaching kids and especially adults.  Play is a powerful tool!

Play can lift a person’s mood. Play relaxes everyone in the room, and eases tension any time things get tense.  Play is a great way to remember to not be so serious.  Play is also great exercise.  We all need a lot of playtime in our lives.

People aren’t the only ones who play. Nature plays, too!

Every once in a while, we are fortunate to get a glimpse into the hidden lives of animals in our homes, and in the wild.  When this happens we are surprised how much animal species are like us.  They love. They protect. And they play.

Every time I think I know enough about a species, I am given another opportunity to learn something new from a new animal teacher, and see life from another’s perspective.

Today my teacher was a wild coyote (Canis latrans).

Check out this new perspective on the importance of play:


Have you ever seen an animal in nature playing like this?

Do you play?

Please share!  I would love to hear your favorite play stories!


Recommended Reading:

Coyote facts

PROJECT COYOTE RESOURCES

Coyote Power Animal

Coyote plays with dog toy

coyote-pups2

We do not quit playing because we grow old; we grow old because we quit playing.― Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

 

 

 

Ben and Denali – Companionship That Transcends Time

When someone you love walks through the door, even if it happens five times a day, you should go totally insane with joy.

Denali

I came across something today that moved me to tears within minutes. I am a sensitive woman, but few things move me to tears that easily.  This did.

Maybe it’s because I can relate to saying goodbye.  Or maybe it’s because I know what it’s like to love another soul deeply, with every fiber of my being, that I would do anything to help them.

Regardless of why it moved me, I would like to share it with you.

Normally I wait until the end of the week, for my Soulful Sunday posts, but I couldn’t wait. It’s too amazing.  Please take a moment to turn inward, and set aside all of life’s distractions to watch something truly beautiful. You’ll be glad you did.


This is a filmmaker’s tribute to his beloved and loyal canine companion.  The video, Denali, is told from the point of view of the dog. – quite hilariously at times.  It’s so well done.  And other artists have recognized it’s brilliance: The film premiered at 5Point Film Festival, winning both Best of Festival and People’s Choice, and was an official selection at Telluride Mountainfilm.

This short film is a gorgeous and poignant expression of friendship, gratitude, honoring a beloved companion, and unconditional love.

This film is a celebration of life.

It’s a celebration of real friendship.

It’s a glimpse into how powerful a bond can become between a person and their beloved animal companion.

It’s something that I hope you can experience one day.


As I have written about before, friendships come in all shapes and sizes.  And this film shows us just that; an illumination of the resilience we can create together with the help of true friends.   But as many of you know, these friendships have to end sometimes.  That’s just the crappy part of this life.

And as Ben shows us in his deeply moving film …  

There’s no easy way to say goodbye to a friend, especially when they’ve supported you through your darkest times.


Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Whatever we were to each, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be the household word it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was;
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near just around the corner…
All is well. Nothing is past, nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before,
Only better and infinitely happier,
And forever we will be one together.

~ Henry Scott Holland


Denali on beach

Love Transcends Time and Space.  

All of the souls you loved are never lost.  They are merely a thought away. 

Keep them close to you in your heart. 


Related Links

What Our Dogs Teach Us About Aging by David Dudley

Ben Moon

In ‘Denali,’ Remembering a Man and His Dog

Don’t Wait. It may be too late.

There Is No Death

Read My Thoughts, Human.

Do you ramble on about your daily troubles to your pets?  Do you pour out your heart to your animal companions, only to watch them stare blankly back at you?  Have you ever looked at your devoted canine companion and wondered ‘What is she thinking?’.

I do. – a lot.

Well, thanks to a brand new device, we can all eliminate that mystery now!  The Speech Articulating Device (S.A.D) is an innovative device that reads your dog’s (or cat’s) mind, and then translates his/her thoughts to you!

Check it out:

Be sure to watch the B.T.S. outtakes, because they are just as hilarious.


“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
― Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho

Source

Promises Fulfilled

Happy New Year_Inspiration 3

I feel keeping a promise to yourself is a direct reflection of the love you have for yourself. I used to make promises to myself and find them easy to break. Today, I love myself enough to not only make a promise to myself, but I love myself enough to keep that promise ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

So often around the New Year we make promises and resolutions for ourselves that we never seem to keep. Did you know that less than 8% of New Year’s resolutions are kept?  I’ll admit that I usually set pretty high stakes for myself and then I fall into that 8 percent. This year I thought that maybe I could keep my new year’s intentions if I made them about something greater than myself. I started to ask myself these questions:

What if I set the intention to be a little kinder and more patient with myself? Would this carry over to my family members and our animal companions?

What if I focused more on what I saw was possible in myself, instead of only what I see now? Would this help me to do the same with my animal companions and the people in my life?

What if I listened more, and observed more, and reacted less? What would happen?

The answers were clear to me; What I give to (or withhold from) myself will parallel how I treat others. What I practice in life will parallel life with others, including my animal companions.  As I reflected on this before and after New Year’s, I was inspired to share some of the things that I have learned over the years, and what I have set the intention to focus on, and improve upon in 2015:

 

Daily Does It.

“If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.” ― John Mayer

Setting your mind up to start a new habit, a new way of thinking, or anything that you want to do with your animal companion takes daily determination. You have to choose to do it over and over.  However, it doesn’t have to take an hour. Set aside 5 minutes each day.  Make a point to repeat your new behavior, or the behavior you are working on with your companion animal every day.  Aim high! Shoot for 40-days straight!  Science has shown us that doing a quick but daily repetition changes the neural pathways in our brains and helps to create long-lasting change. I have tried this and it really works!  Be dedicated to it.  Daily repetition creates permanent change.

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Have Fun or Let It Go.

When he worked, he really worked. But when he played, he really PLAYED. ― Dr. Seuss

I love to laugh, and I live to have fun.  Ever since I was a kid I felt that if it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t worth it doing.  Don’t you think our animals want this too?  Ask yourself: Are you having fun with them?  Are they having fun when you are training or working with them?   The best way to make any resolution stick is to have fun with it.  Do you dread doing something?  Find a way to make it exciting and something you look forward to doing!  Get creative!  Be playful!  Add music into it!  Make it a game or a challenge with an awesome reward!  Use some of that positive reinforcement on yourself!  Animals and people learn so much faster when they are having FUN!

happy pets, happy animals

Question Everything.

Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system. ― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

I cannot even begin to tell you all of the myths and nonsense that I have been taught since childhood, even up to today!  Teachers, friends, family, doctors, nutritionists, veterinarians, and even other animal trainers and educators have shared some real whoppers with me.  None of them were trying to deceive me.  They had been taught a particular belief so they were just passing it onto me.  It was up to me to either digest the fact or barf it up, so to speak.

Everyone has an opinion on something they are passionate about, but it doesn’t make it a fact.  I used to teach my interns and volunteers at the zoo to question everything they heard, even if it came from me, or another highly respected staff member.  You may be wondering why. Well, think about the “facts” that you were once taught, only to find out later on that a fact turned out to be a myth or a popular misconception that merely spread like wildfire from passionate, well meaning friends or colleagues.  When you hear a fact, a suggestion, opinion, or something about an animal, especially yours at home, question what you’re told.  Do your own research about it.  Read as much as you can on that subject. Become an expert on it, or find an expert with credentials.  And remember that just because it’s on the internet or T.V., that doesn’t make it true. You get to decide what’s true for you and your animal family members. Go with what resonates with you.

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Easy Now. Be Like The Duck.

The best way is not to fight it, just go. Don’t be trying all the time to fix things. What you run from only stays with you longer. When you fight something, you only make it stronger. ― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Be easy with yourself, your partner, your kids, and your animal companions.  Let mistakes happen and forgive them.  Don’t hold onto the mistakes and mishaps of anyone, including yourself.  Let yourself, your partner, family member, coworker, boss, and your animal off the hook!  Release the judgments, guilt and blame – especially the ones about yourself!  We are all doing the best we can with where we are.  Animals don’t waste a single ounce of energy on any of those and that’s a powerful life lesson that we can all learn from them. Let it roll off your back like water on a duck!

duck water be the duck

Embrace the “Inner Ding”. 

Trust instinct to the end, even though you can give no reason. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of my biggest deterrents is doubt.  I used to always look outside myself for answers.  I never believed that I had the knowledge or experience to do something out of my comfort zone, or share something personal with others without the fear of criticism.  But over the years I have learned how to better rely on my (as Louise Hay says) “inner ding” to validate my thoughts and feelings instead of doubting them.  Spoiler Alert: The Answers Are Inside YOU. They are not “out there”!   If we can learn to slow down, step away from the situation, remove the emotion, and tune into our own built-in, inner guidance system, we will live life as mother nature and animals know how to do naturally; they flourish without doubt or worry, and they don’t look for answers outside of themselves.  Sure we can read books to learn more, we can go to educational conferences, and we can ask others we respect for their opinions and get their advice, but remember to ask yourself those same questions first and last.  When we strengthen our inner awareness, our outer experience becomes miraculous.

Oh, and about the criticism issue: the only one really criticizing and judging you is yourself.  One way that I started to overcome this fear was by asking myself this question: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”.  You’ll find that when you ask yourself this question, the answer you receive is pretty cool every time. Try it the next time you are afraid or intimidated to do something. Your “Inner Ding” won’t fail you. And you never know how much of a difference you might be making in other’s lives!

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Trust the Process

Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them you find more than you ever dreamed you’d see. ― Lemony Snicket, The Lump of Coal

Patience has never been my strongest quality but working with animals has certainly helped that. Giant tortoises were the first to teach me how to just chill out, slow down, keep it simple, and celebrate the heck out of every little success, no matter how small it seems. Change within ourselves, and our animals doesn’t happen overnight.  So be patient with yourself and with them.  We are all trying to better ourselves, but let’s face it; it’s a lifelong process for us stubborn, thick-headed humans.  Animals don’t measure things as successes or failures, so why should we?  It’s ok when things don’t happen right away.  Remember that every little success adds up!  “Each subtle shift creates a new experience of positive change.”   Then, before we realize it, new behaviors are created!  You’ll look back and those small successes will turn out to be huge leaps.  Keep it simple.  Miracles are in the subtle details of life.  All good things will grow with time.

Magma The Aldabra Tortoise

Observe More. React Less

To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. ― Marilyn Vos Savant

I admit it; I can be sassy as heck when I am tired or stressed, and in general I tend to talk more than I listen.  Just ask my family; I have been mouthy ever since my mother can remember, and my husband must have the patience of an oak tree to deal with me some days.  Sometimes I find myself reacting to comments or behavior instead of observing quietly, without judging or taking things personally.  Interestingly, our dog is reactive sometimes when she is stressed or tired.  I now know that her canine peace of mind can only come when she learns how to observe things (from a safe distance) instead of overreacting to them.  We work on this daily with her. When she is calm and feeling safe and secure, the world and all of its normal chaos does not affect her negatively.  She watches instead of reacts.  I see this in myself as well.  We are both a work in progress in many ways, but with a lot of patience and a lot of daily practice, I know that I can become a conscious observer every minute of the day, and she can too. “Be Passersby”.  You don’t have to react to everything you see and hear. Communicate clearly, but listen and watch more.

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Flaws and All

Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her. ― Laozi

Here are the Cliff notes: You’re good enough, for whatever it is.  In fact, you are perfect, and so is every one of your animal companions -just the way they are.  Sure, they may have a few (or a lot of) behavioral issues that can be modified so they can function better in our human world, but so do we.  It’s a constant challenge for me to embrace all of my many flaws.  Loving and accepting ourselves exactly as we are is the first step in accepting others – including our animals – for exactly as they are.  If we are hard on ourselves, or judge and criticize the flaws, we are bound to view others this way too, including our animal companions.  I don’t believe that animals have “flaws”.  They are products of their genetics and their environment. So are we.  But we are not our past, and neither are they. We are who we decide we are going to become.  When we are able to look past the “flaws” and “imperfections”, and instead, consciously choose to focus on what’s possible, and what he or she can become, miracles occur.  Fear, judgement, and criticism are limitations. They only hold you and your animal companions back.  Instead of constantly reliving or talking about your animal companion’s hard or tough past, focus on where they are headed and what they are capable of becoming.  Believe in the impossible.  Embrace the flaws and all.

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Your Presence Is Needed. 

The greatest gift you can give yourself or anyone else is just being present. ― Rasheed Ogunlaru

My mind is always racing, and I am easily distracted. (Anyone that knows me well is probably laughing out loud at that statement.)  Thankfully I’ve found many ways to quiet my mind over the years, but I still find myself not being fully present when I’m with a friend, a family member, or my animal companions.  I catch myself thinking of what I need to do next, or a conversation that happened earlier.  A year ago I decided to remove all of my social media apps off of my phone because I found myself mindlessly checking them instead of just being aware of what was going on around me!  It has made a huge difference in helping me to be fully present.

One of the things that I admire about animals is that they are always fully present in the moment; they aren’t thinking about what happened yesterday, or what is going to happen tomorrow. They are always here, now.  I’d like to suggest that you try this: when you come home from your busy or stressful day, make a conscious effort to spend a few minutes of your “decompressing” time with your animal family members. Pet them. Throw the ball. Play tug.  Brush them.  Look at them in the eye.  Be fully present with them.  I promise that doing this will turn your day around and uplift you. Their presence is a gift to us. Your presence is also a gift to them.

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Be In Gratitude.

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Even in the crappiest moments in life I can find something to be grateful for.  I am not a Saint by any means, but I have learned to do this.  This technique has changed my life in more ways than I can explain. I now know that my moods directly affect everyone around me, especially my animal companions.  Whether you know it or not, our animal companions are sponges for our emotions and moods.  They are soaking up all that we are sending out.  Now I can catch myself when I start to send out negative energy.  This is how I do it: If I am feeling angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, sad, (insert any emotion), I choose one thing that I am grateful for.  I say it out loud or to myself.  When I do this my mood will start to shift. I can feel myself lighten up and feel better. I start to focus on more things that I am grateful for, and whatever I was so upset about starts to fade. Try it. The next time you are upset, reach for a thought that helps you to feel better; find one thing to be thankful for. More will follow.

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Last year before New Year’s Eve I asked a few friends, colleagues, and close acquaintances what their resolutions and intentions were for their animal companions and themselves.  This is what they graciously shared with me.  (If you don’t have Adobe PDF reader, click here to read Promises from around the world.)

I haven’t had a chance to ask anyone what intentions they have set for this New Year, but I would LOVE to hear yours! Did you make any promises to yourself or your animal companions for 2015?  Please share them with us in the comment section below!

Happy New Year_pets_Inspiration

Go for it, while you can. I know you have it in you. And I can’t promise you’ll get everything you want, but I can promise nothing will change if you don’t try.  ― J.M. Darhower, Sempre

Leave Paw Prints on Their Hearts!

Seasons Greetings! Merry Christmas! Blessed Hanukkah! Happy Holidays!

No matter what you are celebrating and honoring, I hope this finds you and your family having a stress-free week!  I giggled as I wrote that, because the reality (that we all know too well) is that this week can be incredibly hectic.  From family vacations, trips to relatives’ houses, relatives visiting your home, 101 to-dos, last minute shopping, to endless check-lists, these past few weeks can be overwhelming to say the least!  And not to mention the strain that it can put on our finances!  We shop for relatives, we shop for friends, we shop for family members, and sometimes the pets get a few gifts sprinkled in there as well.

But what about giving a gift to our loved ones that honors our pets?

This year I decided to create something for the loved ones in my life that just happen to love our animal companions almost as much as I do.  And at the same time, I found a way to save money, while honoring the foot prints that our pets have placed upon our hearts.

I decided to create my first DIY (Do It Yourself) Paw Print Ornament.

DIY paw print ornaments
Here a 3 of the 5 ornaments. They are still drying here, hence the darker color.

Ok, so it’s not the fanciest ornament, by any means. Clearly you can see that this is my first attempt at this!  But that’s what makes it so fun!  It doesn’t have to be perfect!  It can be messy, with flaws and all!

What I love most about this gift idea is that it’s not about perfection. It’s about creating something from your heart, with your hands. It’s about putting effort and love into a gift. And it’s really fun. 

If you have a dog, cat, pig, parrot, ferret, iguana, or rat, you can do this too!


If you would like to make these, this is what you need:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup baking soda

Steps:

1. Mix both into a saucepan.

2. Slowly add in 3/4 cup of water.

Note: Continue stirring mixture as you add the water. It will start to turn into a hard, concrete mixture; keep stirring! It will blend together in a few minutes.

3. Place saucepan on stove top and cook at medium. Stir constantly for several minutes.

Note: Be sure to stir all the way to the bottom of the pot. The mixture begins to harden at the bottom first.

4. Keep Stirring! — It will very quickly (and almost suddenly) become a doughy ball.

5. Remove saucepan from heat. (Let the dough sit until you can safely remove it from the saucepan).

6. Place the dough on a smooth cutting board and allow it to cool a bit more.

7. Knead it for a minute or so, until it is soft and pliable.

8. Section dough into as many pieces as you will need. (make various sizes based on the animals’ feet sizes.)

9. Roll dough into balls. Press flat.

10. Make a hole big enough for your string of choice to go through the top of the ornament. (I used a thick toothpick.)

11. While the dough is smooth and moist (before it begins to dry and crack), gently press your pet’s paw into the dough. Be gentle, but apply even pressure.

11. Reward your pet with treats for allowing you to do this 😉 Never force your pet to participate.

12. Place parchment or wax paper on a baking sheet. Place dough on sheet.

13. Bake the paw print dough at 250 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes. (thicker slices will take longer to bake.)

14. Let baked dough cool for a few minutes.

15.  Decorate as your heart desires!

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Tips for enhancing your creation:

  • Add glitter!
  • Add beads!
  • Keep the color white!
  • Change the color to red, blue, or whatever color speaks to you!
  • Use twine instead of ribbon for a more rustic look!
  • Paint the ornament after it bakes!
  • Write the name and year on the back.
  • Write a short poem or saying on the back.

(Just google “DIY Paw Print Ornament and you will find a ton of ideas.)


These are just a few reasons why I wanted to share this with you all:

  • It works for folks on a tight budget!
  • It works for a last minute gift idea!
  • It works for kids that love to create things as gifts!
  • It works for the people who love to bake!
  • It works for the non-bakers, too!
  • It works for people with limited time!
  • It works for people of all ages!

It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s fast. It’s creative. It’s unique.

No matter who’s making it, and no matter how it turns out, the receiver of the gift will see that it came from your heart.

“Pets leave footprints in our hearts, and memories in our thoughts that last forever.” -Julie Hebert

Living In Gratitude

Gratitude

For those of you that are new to my blog, welcome! I am grateful for you!  In sharing my gratitude, I wanted to share an older post from last year that I thought you might enjoy.  Many thanks for being here with us,

Blessings to you and yours!

Celebrate Them Every Day.

We seek the comfort of another. 
Someone to share the life we choose. 
Someone to help us through the never ending attempt to understand ourselves. 
And in the end, someone to comfort us along the way. 
~ Marlin Finch Lupus

Hocus Pocus our puppy _copyright Conscious Companion
Hocus Pocus, our canine companion, during her puppy days

Today I am celebrating the birthday of one of my greatest teachers.  I have had many teachers in life.  Many of them were people, and many were animals. But the teacher that I am celebrating today is a dog.

I have only known her for three years, but I feel like I have known her for lifetimes.  She is my constant companion, my friend, my guardian, and my teacher.  She is my dog.  I am her human.  And we love each other more deeply that I ever though possible.

Hocus (and the rest of our animal menagerie) have taught me some of my most valuable lessons in life.  Because of them, I learned to see life through the eyes of an animal.  I learned how to live life to the fullest, and to never take things for granted.  They showed me how to trust more, give more, love more, feel more, and share more.  They showed me what unconditional love and loyalty really is.  They taught me how to slow down, and how to love myself more.  They showed me how to play more, why it’s good to be goofy, and to not care what anyone else thinks.  They show me why it’s safe to be my authentic self, and not be afraid to hide who I really am, and what I really feel.  They showed me how to move through fear gracefully, and how to never regret a damn thing.  From watching them, I learned that I am never a victim of the world; I have the ability to create my world.  They taught me to not take life too seriously, but to give 100 percent to everything  I do.

My teachers taught me when you breathe into fear, it becomes adventure.  Adventure appeals to your sense of wonder, your inner child, and most important, your creative self.  It also reminds you that you make new things happen- the world doesn’t just happen to you. ~ Sonia Choquette

How do you give thanks to someone who gives you these kinds of gifts every day?  It’s easy; by thanking them each day – not just on their birthday.

So here we are. It’s a day after her birthday, but I don’t care.  It’s not about the date.  It’s about honoring and celebrating her every day.  So I made a promise to do just that.

For the rest of my life, I will celebrate her.  I will celebrate the day she was born.  I will celebrate the day she came into our lives.  I will celebrate every day. I will celebrate all of them.

I made a cheesy video for my husband, who once again, has to be gone for long lengths of time, so he cannot be with her during her “birthday extravaganza”.  I wasn’t going to share it with anyone but our family, but I finally decided to share it with other families who love their animal companions as much as we do.  My hope is to inspire you to celebrate your furry, feathered, or scaly animal companion every day of the year.

If you choose to, you can watch the video here.

Let’s stop waiting for birthdays to do “special things” with our animal family members.  Go on an adventure together on a Wednesday!  Offer him that rare, special treat on a Tuesday!   Spend quality time with her on a Thursday!  Make time for them every day.

The earth trembled and a great rift appeared, separating the first man and woman from the rest of the animal kingdom.  As the chasm grew deeper and wider, all the other creatures, afraid for their lives, returned to the forest — except for the dog, who after much consideration lept the perilous rift to stay with the humans on the other side.  His love for humanity was greater than his bond to other creatures, he explained, and he willingly forfeited his place in paradise to prove it.”
~ Native American folktale, Ojibway tribe

Pets_Love_quotes_dogs_Conscious Companion
Hocus, and her people

How do you celebrate your animal family member’s birthdays? I would love to hear!

Dog Park Crazies

dog-park

If you have ever been to a dog park, chances are you have met one … weirdos at the dog park.

Well the folks at Portlandia on the IFC made a hilarious spoof about them.

Watch their comedic interpretation of them here:

 

There are no crazy dogs; Just crazy dog people.